Woman was waiting for more than an hour for help before she died


- Credit: EDP, Archant

An elderly woman who made numerous attempts to call for help after collapsing at home had to wait an hour for assistance to arrive, an inquest heard.

Doris Walford had repeatedly pressed her pendant alarm in the early hours of December 10 last year after falling in the bedroom of her home on Common Lane, North Runcton.

But when operators at Centra – the company tasked with taking alarm calls – attempted to get in contact with the 94-year-old, they received no reply.

A Norfolk County Council-funded first response team was then tasked with attending the address. However, a delay in the shift changeover meant they turned up more than hour later, shortly before 7.20am.

On arrival the team immediately called an ambulance and Mrs Walford was taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn. An inquest in Norwich heard yesterday how she died three days later, having suffered a bleed on the brain and a fractured hip caused by the fall.

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The widow, who lived alone, had first pressed her alarm pendant at 6am for assistance.

But the council-funded response team, known as the Swifts and Night Owls, did not leave for her address until just before 7am.

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Giving evidence, Susan Anderson, service manager, said this was due to procedures in place for the shift changeovers.

She explained: 'We have for a long time had protocols in place that when there is 30 minutes left on the shift we will not deploy someone to get to the call if they can't get back [in the time for the end of the shift]. With other commitments our employees have, there is an expectation they will finish near to the end of their shift.'

The inquest heard how the response team was made aware of the incident shortly before 6.30am.

It was also revealed that the service did not always class 'no response calls' as a priority or emergency.

But Katherina Brady, county manager for the service, said this was because many people pressed their alarms by mistake.

Johanna Thompson, assistant coroner, concluded that the death was the result of an accident.

She added that the delay in reaching Mrs Walford was 'unlikely' to have affected the outcome.

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